Category Archives: PhD

It’s the most miserable time of the year

I’m depressed.

Not clinically, at least, not yet. But I’m definitely in a major slump. I’m crying a lot and sleeping a lot and I feel tired all the time. Everything exhausts me.

Part of it is weather-related, because this time of year is always so dark and cold, and even though it’s not all that cold right now, it is so dark for so long.

Part of it is lack of exercise because I stopped running during the tww in our last FET and then didn’t start up again because (see above) it was cold and dark in the mornings and E. started waking up unpredictably early.

Part of it is Christmas burnout. This is the first year I have really, really not wanted to be buying presents. It’s just felt overwhelming. Q. and I have decided to do “presence, not presents”, so we’re each in charge of organizing six dates over the the course of 2015, which I’m excited about. I’m also in discussions with my family to stop gift exchanging (other than for E. of course). Anything we really want/need we can afford to buy ourselves, and I’m so tired of buying stuff to give to people because they’re going to buy stuff to give to us. We have so much. Too much, really.

Part of it is trying to engage with the end of treatments. Today I packed up a duffel bag of clothes and three bags of books and toys for the son of a very dear friend from high school (we’re going to see them over the holidays). I felt both happy and relieved to be able to give them these things and heart-broken that we were able to give them away because we were never going to need them ourselves.

Part of it, a big part, is missing the little person who was supposed to be here but isn’t.

And part of it is finishing the PhD. I didn’t think this was going to affect me as much as it has- I handed in the final draft of the dissertation in early October and I didn’t touch it again until December, so I thought I’d had a break from it. But I was clearly still focusing on it, even unconsciously, because ever since the defence (and the celebratory party the day afterwards), I’ve been out of sorts.

I haven’t googled it, but I would bet money that feeling depressed after finishing a PhD is completely normal and probably expected. After all, I’ve spent the past six years working on it.  It’s not helped by the fact that I’m not starting a new job immediately afterwards. I’m still figuring out what I want to do and what will work with our family. So there’s a lot of uncertainty and not a lot of answers right now. I know that will change, but the here and now is a challenge.

I’ve been trying to push everything down until after Christmas, but it’s not really working. So, as of today, I’m trying something new: acknowledging that this probably won’t be my best Christmas, but there will be other years ahead when I won’t feel this way. I’m giving myself permission to grieve, to mourn, to feel adrift. It is a year of endings, after all.

And now that I’ve dumped out how I’m feeling, I’m going to turn off the computer and go for a run while the sun is still shining.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Friends, Grief, Life after the PhD, Loss, Mirror, Mirror (Body Image), My addled brain, PhD, Running, Second Thoughts, Sleep, Three's Company

2014: A year of endings

Today I submitted the final version of my dissertation.

My university no longer requires hard copies, so it was a relatively simple matter of uploading the PDF and filling out a few extra details. It was made a little more interesting by the fact I realized late on Sunday night that today was the very LAST day on which I could submit the dissertation without having to wait until January and register for another term (even though the university doesn’t shut for Christmas until the 24th). So that led to rather a lot of e-mails between myself, my supervisor and the chair of the examination committee, and then a lot more e-mails between myself and the graduate program assistant. But it all worked out in the end- the link came through this morning as promised and it took me less than ten minutes after I’d started the process (including a couple of minutes spent waiting for my computer to load the 398 page PDF so I could just double check it was the right version).

Anyway, I am, for all intents and purposes, done my PhD. Convocation still lies ahead, and I may well have to dress up in robes and prance across a stage (even though I would rather take the degree in absentia) because it would be good for my program to have tangible proof that PhDs are finishing. We’ll see. But the PhD was finished in 2014. That’s how it will be counted.

Two other things ended in 2014.

My second, and last, pregnancy.

And my hopes for a second child.

We had our follow up appointment with our fertility specialist last week. Q. was able to go as well because my sister was in town (not the one who lives in the same city- she was overseas- but the other one) and kindly agreed to look after E.

It was uninspiring.

I wasn’t surprised by this.

I had taken the time to type up all of the details of our two IVF cycles (culled from this blog): # eggs retrieved, # mature, # fertilized, maturation rate, attrition rate, etc. It made things much easier when it became obvious that he hadn’t reviewed our chart in any way before meeting with us.

He was 90 minutes late. This was apparently due to a crisis in the OR, but the man always runs 90 minutes late so I can’t see why they bothered to give us an explanation. It meant we had to endure a very long and awkward conversation with my favourite ultrasound tech who must now hold a managerial position in the clinic. She spent much of it trying to convince us to change our minds.

Both she and Dr. L. told us that it will be difficult when E. gets older and starts asking why everyone around him has a brother or sister. They told us that we won’t be around one day and it will be better for E. not to be alone.

This was, frankly, insulting. I can’t believe that anyone would come to that clinic having decided to end treatments and yet somehow have failed to consider the repercussions of such a decision.

Dr. L. really, really didn’t want to let us go. He started making suggestions: a short-protocol IVF. Putting back three embryos.

I don’t want to have to selectively reduce.

When I got home I did a bunch of Googling and discovered my gut feeling was right- short-protocol IVFs are NOT good protocol for PCOS patients. We need long and slow to get good eggs.

I think he just suggested it because it would be ‘easier’ on us- less time at the clinic. I don’t think he really thought about whether it would be the right thing for my particular set of issues.

He danced around the subject whenever Q. tried to ask him a question about success rates and numbers. I wish my sister could have come with us as she is better at hard questions and would probably have been able to better pin him down.

I came out of the appointment conflicted, but I wasn’t once the dust had settled and I had some time to think.

I just don’t trust my f/s enough to do another cycle. I’m tired of the chaos of my clinic. I’m tired of his perpetual lateness. IF we went back, I would ask to transfer to another doctor, who is always on time and who always remembers me when he sees me. But we’re not even likely to do that.

I know what we will not do, under any circumstances, in building our family.

We will not move to another clinic and start over again. That ship has sailed.

We will not adopt.

We will not use donor eggs.

We will not use a surrogate.

We would probably do another IVF cycle, with the other doctor, if E. were still two, or if our insurance covered procedures and not just medications, or if our province actually funded IVF like they have been suggesting they will, eventually.

There are circumstances under which I can see us trying again.

But those circumstances don’t reflect our lives as they exist today.

And so 2014 is likely to be embedded in my memory as the year in which things ended.

Some good.

Some bad.

But all of them over.

I hope it lets 2015 be a fresh start.

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Filed under 2.0 Pregnancy, Grief, Life after the PhD, Lonely Onlies?, Loss, PhD, Second Thoughts, Siblings, Three's Company

Presenting…

Dr. Turia!

Very minor revisions (read: a handful of typos) and they want to nominate the dissertation for the university prize. Was praised to the skies for the clarity and elegance of my writing.

I may never have a job in my field.

I may never ‘use’ the PhD.

But no one can take it away from me.

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Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Life after the PhD, PhD

The proof is in the paper

Microblog_Mondays

I picked up something on Saturday, all bound up and ready for the examiners.

IMGP0270

It does feel kind of nice to see it like that. Tangible proof that I did it, that these past four years (six if you include the coursework and comprehensive exam years) weren’t all for naught.

Onwards to the defense.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. For the other participants this week, see here.

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Filed under Life after the PhD, Microblog Mondays, PhD

Giving thanks

Microblog_MondaysIt is Thanksgiving here.

For the first time since we moved back to a country which celebrates Thanksgiving, we haven’t left the city.

Yesterday Q., E. and I sat on the couch together and watched Finding Nemo, and E. got all the way through it, even if he spent much of the movie with his stuffed Puppy on his head, ready to drop in front of his eyes if he became too frightened.

Then we sat at the table together and ate roast beef and roasted potatoes and carrots and bumbleberry pie with homemade ice cream for dessert (because Q. really is that amazing) and E. talked non-stop about the movie, about French vocabulary, about how the digestive system works, about why Pluto isn’t considered a planet anymore, and about all the chilis we harvested from our garden. He paused only occasionally to look into his bowl to see if some small portion of pie or ice cream had escaped his spoon.

Then he went to bed, and Q. and I lounged around on the couches reading books, and I read for fun and felt no guilt because all four of my committee members have given the green light to my dissertation and it’s out of my hands now until I defend. We went to bed and I stopped in at E’s room, as I do every night, to adjust his covers and give him a kiss.

This morning I woke up early and ran through the streets, ran long enough and far enough that my mind stopped churning and I could just breathe and be.

I am healthy and happy. I love and I am loved.

And I am grateful.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. For the other participants, click here.

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Filed under Joy, Life after the PhD, Microblog Mondays, PhD, Running

Incentive

Microblog_MondaysI really love my public library system.

It has almost every book I could want.

It delivers my holds to my home branch and e-mails me to tell me they’ve arrived.

It lets me put my holds on hold when I’m going to be away and keeps my place in line for when I make them active again.

Every now and then, however, despite my best efforts, all my holds come in at once.

Last week these turned up, all within two days of each other. I picked them up the day I found out I’d lost two weeks of revision time.

IMGP0196There’s a pure comfort trip back to one of the fantasies I most loved when I first discovered the genre as a teenager which I still love even though it is so terribly written, two books in a shadow series I never got round to reading when it was first published (although I adored the original), the second book in a series I’m just now beginning to read, and a book about motherhood in the modern world. Plus one more waiting for me at my branch because I’ve been so out of control I didn’t even have time to log in and make the rest of the holds inactive (I got the e-mail yesterday).

They have nothing to do with my thesis topic.

I haven’t touched one.

They’re waiting for me.

Tomorrow.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. Click here to see the other participants.

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Filed under Books, Life after the PhD, PhD

Moving the goalposts

My Dad spent a long time in the military. One of the side-effects of this career is obsessive punctuality (something which all three of his daughters have picked up. Seriously- no one worries about being on time as much as we do). My Dad also likes to do things efficiently. The result of this is that if we have an agreed upon time at which we are going to do something (like get in the car to start a lengthy drive to visit relatives) and my Dad happens to wake up earlier than expected that particular morning, he has a bad habit of trying to move up the departure time to the new time at which HE will be ready. He won’t tell any of us this (because we are all still sleeping, assuming the original departure time still stands), but he will get crankier and crankier as the morning progresses, even if we are all in the car two minutes before we were originally supposed to leave (see? we’ve all been well trained), because HE could have left earlier.

Now that we’ve all realized he does it, we’ve started calling him on it a bit more. “Dad,” we’ll say, while we eat breakfast and he “lounges” in the living room, showered, dressed, fed, and obviously dying to hit the road. “Stop moving the goalposts.”

He is getting better. I find it hilarious, except that apparently I do it too. Q. nearly always calls me out on it, and most of the time it is a result of the difference between us about how long I think it will take to get somewhere (because we have to be there early) and how long Q. thinks it will take (because the world won’t end if we’re five minutes late because we didn’t get a smooth transit connection). But, I have to admit, there are times where I’ve done things really efficiently and then thought to myself, “Hey, we could leave half an hour earlier now!”

I am my father’s daughter.

It’s all fun and games until the goalposts get moved on you. Yesterday my supervisor e-mailed to say that the prof he’d approached is willing to act as my external examiner. This particular prof is quite a big name in our field, and if he likes the thesis it will be a very good thing to have him as a referee.

But he moved my goalposts. He’s supposed to only get the thesis six weeks before the scheduled defense date, but he’s asked for it ASAP (pleading bad eyesight as slowing any reading progress).

My supervisor supports me, and has reiterated that this prof can’t demand the thesis before the six week mark, but his e-mails have had an underlying tone of “if there is any possible way to get things done earlier that would really be good”.

So today I talk to the admin assistant at E.’s nursery school to see if E. can stay for the afternoon session on Friday this week and for two days next week as well. Last night Q. agreed to basically be a single parent for the next two weekends.

I just had a fire lit under my ass when it comes to getting the revisions done.

October 6th.

That’s my new goalpost.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Family, PhD

Burn Me to Ashes

I am a bad writer.

Not,  I hasten to add, when it comes to getting words down on paper or, as is more likely to be the case, the screen. Sometimes I even put them down in combinations that look elegant and clever. My supervisor has always praised the clarity of my writing (an all too rare thing in academia).

No, I am a bad writer because the thing I hate to do, more than almost anything else in the world, is edit my own work.

When Q. writes, he is water on stone. He isn’t fast, and he isn’t pretty, but he is inexorable, unyielding, merciless. If Q. has an hour free in his day, he will go and write 150 painstaking, thoughtful, deliberate words. Q. quite likes the editing process. He writes and rewrites and fiddles until at last he is satisfied. When I edit his work (for I edit all of his work), there is always evidence of this tinkering, sentences where Q. thought about two ways to construct his idea and didn’t quite manage to erase all traces of the one he chose not to do. Q. misses those errors when he proof reads his own work because his eye sees the sentence he decided to write and skips over the remnants of the one he discarded.

When I write, I am fire.

An idea will simmer and slowly burn within, like hot coals. I will mull on it, chew on it, dream on it, until at last it explodes inside me, a roaring conflagration that demands I put my fingers to the keyboard (usually because the deadline for when the piece of work is due has drawn so near I can no longer ignore it). When I write, I burn. I hollow myself out. On a good day I write 1000 words in an hour. When I was writing the first draft of each chapter of the dissertation, once I actually started writing (and wasn’t just thinking about writing) I set myself the goal of 1500 words each day. Usually I’d reach that goal by 10 or so in the morning and I’d either keep writing if I was in the middle of something or I’d stop and go back to reading and researching. Some days I wrote 3500 or 4000 words- good words, quality words, words that are still there in my thesis.

I write blog posts (the only thing I’ve written in the last six years that wasn’t coursework essays or conference presentations or scholarship applications or dissertation chapters) in much the same way. An idea will float around in my head for a week or two (or more). When I finally sit down at the computer, I usually produce it in one sitting because I’ve already written almost all of it in my head. I read it over, tinker a little bit, and hit publish. I have never sat on a draft of a post for weeks at a time. I have never rewritten one over and over again. I either write the post, or I don’t.

When I am writing well, it feels like flying.

And when the draft is finished, and I have to turn back to the beginning, I fall to earth.

When I was doing my Master’s degree, at a university in the UK with enormous snob appeal, I did a course in my first term where the professor had me write a 2500-3000 word essay every week. Every week he’d give me a reading list of around 30 books, and every week I’d read as much as I could and then cry in my room until I had no time left and I HAD to sit down at the computer and write. And every week I’d write it, and then I would drop it off in his mailbox and go and have fun that night because I was free of it, and then two days later we’d meet in his office for a couple of hours and he would tell me everything that was wrong with it and then give me a new topic and a new reading list and I would go back to my room and cry for a while and then I would go back to the library and get the books on the new reading list and start again.

Every week.

It was absolute torture and a terrible blow to my self-esteem (because I had been the darling of my undergraduate department and I had won this huge scholarship to go to this fancy university and now I felt like I was being told how stupid I was on a weekly basis), but it had an unexpected benefit.

That professor taught me to do it right the first time.

In my undergraduate days, I was a tinkerer. I would finish essays two weeks before they were due, just so I could leave them alone for a week and then look at them again.

I didn’t have that luxury with him.

That course made me a better writer. It made me more decisive. It taught me to cut to the heart of a matter. It taught me to write clear, faultless prose the first time out.

Most of all, it taught me not to be afraid of dumping words, hundreds of words, onto the blank screen. The way I wrote those essays- a sharp, concentrated burst of writing- was largely the way I then wrote my Master’s thesis a year later and the way I have written my doctoral dissertation, just on a much, much larger scale.

It’s not that I don’t edit my work. Of course I do. The first draft of every single one of my chapters of my dissertation was filled with notes in bold to myself. I revised every chapter before I sent it to my supervisor. I revised the entire thesis before I sent him the full draft. I revised the thesis again in light of his comments before I sent it to the committee, and I am revising it yet again right now before it is sent to the external examiner.

I have added content, clarified the argument, made reference to more scholarship, updated translations. I have moved large sections of text from one chapter to another as the thesis drew closer to completion and the order of the argument became more apparent.

I have only very rarely touched the prose.

Vast, vast swathes of the thesis stand pretty much exactly as they looked when I frantically hurled them onto the screen while composing that first, very rough draft.

Every time I wrote a first draft I thought it was garbage.

It’s not garbage, though. It never is.

And now I really am in the endgame, and I’m at the point where I can and should edit the thesis not for content, but for style and presentation and order of argument. One of my committee members is not in my field and she has made some very detailed and helpful suggestions for changes I could make that would make the thesis more accessible to historians who don’t specialize in my era.

They are very good suggestions.

They would require me to read the thesis, in its entirety, very carefully.

I would rather do anything right now than do that.

The problem with fire is it burns out.

Every time I reach the final stage of the writing process, the point where I should take a good hard look at my prose and take the time to make changes and rewrite sentences, I find I am so heartily sick of reading it that I just can’t be bothered. I read it one last time to make sure I haven’t missed any glaring grammatical errors, and then I hand it in.

I am unbelievably sick of my dissertation right now. I hadn’t touched it since I sent it to the committee in mid-June, and as soon as I picked it up again last week all the loathing and frustration and boredom sprang back up as though they had never left. Reading it makes me physically ill.

I am done with it. SO done with it. I want nothing more than to do the last few content suggestions my committee members have given me and call it finished.

But if I want to call myself a writer, if I want to really be a writer, if I am serious about tackling one of the books that is in my head during this year at home, I have to learn how to edit my work.

I have to make those changes suggested to me by the committee member outside my field.

I have to find a way to not burn out.

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Filed under Blogging, Life after the PhD, PhD, Writing

Cultivating Stillness

So we are officially one week into the autumn semester here.

One week since Q. started teaching again.

One week since I did not, for the first time since we moved to this city seven years ago (except for the year I was still on leave after E. was born).

One week since I have, officially, become a SAHM.

And I am, not to put too fine a point on it, going absolutely fucking crazy.

Not with E. It’s got nothing to do with E. Right now we’re having a good time together. There are no tears at nursery school drop offs, because he knows I’m picking him up right after lunch. We potter around the neighbourhood.  We bake. We clean the house. We weed the garden. We spend part of every day building a couch train (where we take all the cushions off the couches and put them on the floor in a very particular order that is known ONLY to E. and tears ensue when I, or the stuffed animals helping us, invariably get it wrong). We read books (currently he is big into Amelia Bed.elia Goes Wild). We play alphabet Go Fish (and I regularly lose to his favourite stuffed animal, which is both amusing and somewhat humiliating at the same time). I successfully signed him up for swimming lessons (making sure to be logged in to my computer at the exact moment registration opened in order to grab our most-wanted spot), which will start at the end of the month.

It’s not E.

It’s me.

I am losing my mind because the future is stretching out in front of me, all nebulous and uncertain and I DON’T HAVE A PLAN.

I don’t do well without plans. (Understatement of the century, right there.)

I knew when I started the PhD I probably wouldn’t get a tenure-stream position. Being unable to move to take up a job elsewhere makes that highly unlikely, even before the job market tanked. By the time I was in the throes of writing up the dissertation, I knew I didn’t want a tenure-stream position, even if one existed. I didn’t have the drive for it. I wasn’t willing to work the hours it required. There was no room in our household for two career-stream academics if we were going to actually parent our son ourselves.

But I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I wouldn’t get contract teaching. Even if it was only one course at first, or just a few tutorials, I always assumed I would get my foot in the door. The pay wouldn’t be much, but my time would be flexible, I’d still be teaching, and I’d stay bound to the academic year. I could be at home with E. in the summers.

And then this academic year started, and I don’t have teaching, not one little bit, and my foot’s not in the door.

I’m supposed to be embracing this year at home.

I am supposed to be viewing it as “a golden opportunity to spend one more year with my son, who is probably going to be our one and only, before he goes off to kindergarten and his teachers see more of his life than we do” rather than “an indictment of failure because you just spent six years on a PhD and for what- if you’d just stuck with contract teaching you’d be entrenched in the courses by now and no one could get rid of you even though you wouldn’t be properly qualified”.

Oh yes, I haven’t actually FINISHED the PhD yet. I’m supposed to be doing revisions right now (more on that in another post).

So it is maybe premature to consider the PhD a waste of time when I haven’t even finished it yet.

We are a week into our new routine, and already I am catching myself trying to make up a new plan. At night, during E.’s quiet time, even when he is at nursery school and I should be working on the dissertation, I find myself surfing websites. My inner monologue goes something like this:

Ok, so we could transfer over your teaching qualifications from Australia. Then you could teach high school here. But there aren’t any jobs in teaching right now! Well, no, but you could send out your CV to some of the private schools- the ones that teach Latin and would like that you’ve coached rowing- and just see if they bite. But teaching high school in Australia stressed me out. It’s not family friendly- not during the year. I wouldn’t be able to do pick ups or drop offs for E. at school.

Ok, so what about university administration? There’s a job for a grant writer/editor at the big university downtown. They want a PhD in their minimum qualifications. You could be good at something like that. You could do well with something like that. You’re not actually qualified for that job, but if you get your foot in the door with a university, you can always move sideways into another position. Yes, but can I do an office job? Can I do nine to five? What if the job doesn’t come home with you? Wouldn’t that be a nice change? But what about the summers?

Ok, what about libraries? You love books. There are lots of interesting things to do in a library. Yes, but they want a degree in Library or Information Science. Great idea! More school! Let’s put off the decision making! Are you serious? Do you really think Q. would agreed to that? Yes, yes he would. If you said, “Hey Q., I know I just spent six years working on my PhD and I’ve been a student for nine of the twelve years we’ve been together, but I think what would really make me most happy would be to go back and do another two years getting another degree”, you know that Q. would agree. He wants most of all for you to be happy. He’s not the selfish one in this marriage. But that’s not fair to him. And it’s not making a decision, it’s just deferring it. You’d be hiding your fears in another degree program.

Right. So what about freelance writing/editing and working from home? You’re available for E. and you can do your own writing too. TOO SCARY. DON’T MENTION IT. WHAT IF I FAIL?

Well, LOOK. We need to come to some sort of decision here. This is your future and the future of your family we’re talking about. What do you want to do? PANIC STATIONS!

And round and round I go, over and over for hours and hours.

Today, I am saying only this:

Stop, Turia. Just stop.

I don’t NEED a plan right now.

I can’t make a plan right now.

I can’t even begin to try to imagine what the rest of my life will look like because a) I haven’t finished the PhD yet and I need to spend my time making sure my thesis is ready to defend when we finally settle on an examiner and a date, and b) we don’t yet know that E. will be an only. I’m 95% convinced that he will be, but I can’t make plans based on the assumption that we are really, truly, done with trying until we do the last FET.

So today I am telling myself to let go of the need for a plan. I am telling myself to cultivate stillness. I am telling myself to wait, wait at least until the new year, when the thesis will be done and the FET will have happened, before I make any decisions about the future.

And I am also telling myself to be gentle. I am reminding myself that I don’t have to figure it out all at once. What E. needs from me as his mother in the next couple of years as he starts full-time formal schooling is not necessarily what he will need from me when he is eight, or ten, or fifteen.

I am trying to train myself to imagine other possibilities. Q. and I were both raised by mothers who were at home with us for much of our childhood, who then went on to become teachers. Our mothers were always around in the summers. It is exceedingly difficult for me to imagine a life where that is not the case for E., a life where I work in an office and we have two weeks together in July or August. There would be good things in that life too. Maybe E. would get to go away to camp when he was older, something my sisters and I never did because our mother was always at home. Maybe E. wouldn’t spend hours marooned at school waiting for his mother to finish her work devoted to other people’s children so she could come and pick him up, like we did. Maybe E. would have a mother who could come to some of his assemblies and come on school trips and do all of the things during school hours that parents who are also teachers are never able to do.

My mother stayed at home until I was ten (the advantage of being the eldest). But when I was ten and she went back to work, she was only a year older than I am now. I don’t want to be a SAHM mum long-term. It wouldn’t be good for me mentally. I’m already struggling enormously with the idea of going without an income for the year, even though Q. makes a good wage and we will be ok. We won’t be putting much away for later, but we’ll be ok. But we’ll have to think about money a lot more than we have in the last few years, and we’ll have to be much more careful with it, and I’m realizing just how important it is to both of us and to our marriage that we don’t usually have to be super careful.

I’m really lucky, I know that. I am incredibly privileged that I can have this year at home with my son, that my husband fully supports me being at home, that he makes a good enough wage that we can manage with me at home without doing more than tightening our belts a little. I am (relatively) young still, and healthy, and I will have a PhD before the year is done, and I have the chance to choose, really choose, what I most want to do with my life.

Right now, though, I don’t feel lucky.

I feel adrift.

And trying to embrace the NOT KNOWING is proving to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Blink and you'll miss it, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Life after the PhD, Money Matters, PhD, Writing

Crossroads

This is my 500th post on this blog.

It seems appropriate to hit such a milestone at this point.

I turned thirty-five this summer.

My thirties thus far have been almost entirely devoted to achieving two things:

1. Motherhood

2. A PhD

The quest for both started in my late twenties- I was twenty-eight when I started at the clinic, twenty-nine when I started the PhD- but it’s safe to say that my thirties have been dominated by these two very different goals.

My blog has been there for almost every step of the ride. When I started it, in March 2008, I had just started at the clinic and I was in the second semester of my doctorate. I’ve turned to my blog in good times and (especially) in bad. I’ve documented wherever the roads to both became bumpy (and boy did they get bumpy at times).

Now I’m at a crossroads.

By the end of 2014, I should have the PhD in hand. I have a complete draft that has been revised. My supervisor and two of my three committee members like it (the third is being frustratingly slow to read it). I’ve had two and a half months free of it, and I think now I can stand to look at it again and start to make this final round of revisions before the defence. There have been many, many times along the way where I didn’t think it would happen, but I know now I will finish. And some days I even think it will all have been worth it.

I did become a mother, something for which I am grateful each and every day, even though that made attaining the PhD ever more difficult. And by the end of 2014 we will likely know whether our family is complete as it now stands, or whether we might yet welcome one more member.

Regardless of what happens with that final FET, the second half of my thirties is not going to have the same focal points as the first.

I will not be trying to expand my family.

I will (probably) not be in academia.

I don’t know what the next 500 posts will bring, but I believe that my blog will still be here, that I will still be writing in this space when I turn forty. I wonder if I will be as surprised by the next five years as I have been by the last five.

This year, the last before E. goes to school, my unexpected extra year at home, is my opportunity to put aside the stress and the panic and the constant deadlines of the PhD and to sit, really sit with myself and examine what I want out of my life, and what my family needs from me.

I have the chance now to find the new focus for my life.

I have the responsibility now to figure out just what I’m going to do now that there is no question that I have grown up.

It should be a bold new world.

I’m scared shitless.

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Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Family, Life after the PhD, Money Matters, My addled brain, PhD, Writing